ALL PARAMILITARY personnel deployed in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) will now be entitled to take commercial flights to either join duty or go on leave.
In an order issued on Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it has “approved the entitlement of air travel on Delhi-Srinagar, Srinagar-Delhi, Jammu-Srinagar and Srinagar-Jammu sectors to all the personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs)”. This includes their journey for joining duty, transfer, tour or going on leave, it said.
The CRPF, however, clarified that convoy movement would continue to transport logistics and personnel as and when required, with adequate security measures.
The order comes a week after the attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, in which 40 security personnel were killed. The convoy was on its way from Jammu to Srinagar. Many of those killed were returning after leave.
Sources said questions were raised as to why the troops were not allowed to travel by air so that the risk and threat of travelling on road, in large convoys in the Valley, is eliminated.
MHA officials said that till now, this air travel facility was only available to officers in the rank of Inspectors and above. A senior official said all CAPF personnel will now be able to book tickets on regular commercial flights and claim reimbursement from their organisation or force for travel to and from Kashmir.
The home ministry said the new facility is “in addition” to the existing air courier services for CAPFs where an entire aircraft is booked for the security personnel from either Delhi or Jammu to Srinagar and back.
A statement on Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s official Twitter handle said the decision will “immediately benefit approximately 7.8 lakh paramilitary personnel of the ranks of constable, head constable and assistant sub-inspector who were otherwise not eligible earlier”.
The ministry said that for the Jammu and Kashmir sector, an air courier service was already available for CAPF personnel, and this was extended in December 2017 to cover more routes like Delhi-Jammu, Jammu-Srinagar, Srinagar-Jammu and Jammu-Delhi. “The number of flights were further extended in December 2018. In addition, air support is provided from the Indian Air Force as and when required,” it said in a statement.
According to the CRPF, over 62,000 of its personnel are deployed in J&K, apart from units of the BSF, ITBP, CISF, SSB and the NSG.